For many aspiring professional actors, moving to LA and getting your big break is the ultimate dream. For others, it’s just another potential opportunity worth being open to. Either way, if you are planning on heading to LA for your acting career, it’s important to understand how LA casting works, including all the ways it is different to UK casting.
Same fish, bigger pond
Perhaps the biggest thing you need to understand about being an actor in LA is just how much competition there is. There are way more actors in LA than anywhere else in the world, which means far more competition.
However, the other thing worth bearing in mind is that a far higher percentage of actors in LA are no good. This is perhaps inevitable with a city known as the place to go if you want to be an actor – it is absolutely stuffed full of people who just woke up one morning, decided they wanted to be an actor and headed for Hollywood.
This means if you have genuine acting ability and are willing to work hard, be persistent and understand how things work, you have a really good chance of standing out from the crowd. This is what happened to past Ultimate Acting Programme student Damien Gerard:
“Thanks to Brian’s help, I secured the lead role in a US-funded feature film called Culture Shock purely by approaching the audition differently from everyone else and standing out to the casting director.”
The difference between agents and managers
In the UK, you probably have an agent (if you’re lucky!) who manages your whole career for you. In LA, most actors have both an agent and a manager and it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
In general, successful LA casting begins with an LA acting agent who will find you auditions, submit your name to casting directors and handle the general day-to-day business of your career, such as dealing with contracts. A manager will take care of your career on a more long-term basis and will usually ask you to sign a three-year contract with them.
By law, an LA talent agent is only allowed to take a 10% share of the money you earn. A manager will take anywhere from 10-15%. Although you can choose to represent yourself, you are unlikely to get access to the best roles or get the best possible deal for the work you do get (unless you’re Bill Murray).
Past Ultimate Acting Programme graduate Kamilla Alnes was successful in securing an LA based manager;
“After taking the one-year program, I decided to move to LA to pursue acting over there. I still live in LA, and have a wonderful manager and a great agency!”
Everyone has a shot
One thing people often complain about with acting in the UK is that it is something of a closed shop. People who didn’t go to the right private school, drama school or university can find it hard to break into the industry for these reasons.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s still perfectly possible for anyone to make it as an actor in the UK, as long as they have passion, tenacity, a willingness to learn and improve and of course, the right coaching. LA, on the other hand, does tend to be more meritocratic. But, if you have acting ability and can capture the interest of the right people, you have a shot in Hollywood, no matter what school you went to.
Being from the UK is an advantage
It’s a bit of a cliché that Americans love a British accent, but it can definitely be an advantage when heading to LA for your acting career. Popular US shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Homeland all have their fair share of British actors in lead roles. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major US TV series right now without at least one British actor in the cast!
There are a number of reasons why British actors are so popular in Hollywood, with British actor training often considered superior to the US variety. As top LA casting director Lucinda Syson (Syriana, Batman Begins, X-Men: First Class) puts it:
“In Britain, acting is very theater-based — they perform the character every night in front of a live audience, which as an exercise is very scary, but it builds up muscles in all the right places.”
Syson also points out that British actors tend to be very accomplished at performing in American accents because of how much US TV and film we are exposed to. There is also the perception that British actors are often cheaper than their US counterparts.
Know the etiquette
Although good (and bad) acting is the same all around the world, there are some key things you will need to change about your approach in LA.
The first is that you will likely need new headshots, as the style of headshots used in LA tends to be different to those used in the UK and much of the rest of the world. If you want to make the right first impression, your headshots will need to look the part.
You are also likely to be taped for all your auditions, so make sure you are prepared. LA auditions tend to last around five minutes with no time for standing around chatting. If you are using a US accent, it is best to stick with it from the moment you enter the room to avoid drawing focus to your own accent.
It’s also worth remembering that it is fine to read from a script for most LA auditions, so you don’t normally need to memorise your lines. However, you still need to make sure you are properly performing the lines e.g. looking up regularly and making eye contact, not just reading mechanically off the script!
Top US casting director Carol Dudley says:
“The US motto is if you don’t flaunt it, you haven’t got it. Second motto: Cut to the chase. These should be your guiding principles.”
Master the business of professional acting including LA casting and more
At the Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio, we understand that to make it as a professional actor, you need much more than just pure acting ability. You need to understand how the business works. That’s why we don’t just teach you how to become a world-class actor, we also teach you everything you need to know to get out there and start getting paid acting work.
From how LA casting work to helping you create your own professional-quality acting showreel, we give you all the knowledge and tools you need to succeed. That’s why our One-Year Ultimate Acting Programme really is the best choice for anyone wanting to break into professional acting.
Places on the Ultimate Acting Programme are strictly limited and by audition only. Spaces fill up fast, so if you want to get your professional acting career off the ground in just one year, make sure to apply and audition today!